February 23, 2009 / 12:06 AM / 11 years ago

Amnesty calls for arms embargo of Israel and Hamas

* Amnesty says Israel committed war crimes

* It says United States supplied many of the weapons used

* Says Hamas rocket attacks constituted war crime

By Adam Entous

JERUSALEM, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Amnesty International called on Monday for a global arms embargo against Israel, accusing it of using white phosphorous and other weapons supplied by the United States to commit war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

In a report issued one month after Israel ended its 22-day offensive, the rights organisation documented that U.S.-made weapons were used widely by Israeli forces in the Hamas-ruled enclave. Amnesty said U.S. President Barack Obama had a “particular obligation” to suspend military aid over their use.

In addition to seeking a crack down on Israel, the report called on the U.N. Security Council to impose a full arms embargo against Hamas Islamists. Amnesty said rocket attacks by Gaza militants against Israeli towns constituted a war crime.

Shunned by Western powers for refusing to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by interim peace deals, Hamas receives support from Iran and other Islamist allies.

Both Israel and Hamas dismissed the Amnesty report.

Mark Regev, spokesman for outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said it was “fundamentally flawed” and “tainted” by data provided by Hamas. He said Israel only uses weapons that are legal under international law.

“Every effort is made to avoid having innocent civilians caught up in the crossfire between us and Hamas,” Regev said. “The report ignores the fact Hamas deliberately used the Palestinian civilian population as a human shield.”

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the report “unfair”, saying there was no comparison between the Israeli war machine and Palestinian “people who defend themselves with some rifles and other primitive means”.

He denies that Hamas got its weapons from other countries.


Last month’s war, which Israel launched with the declared aim of halting rocket attacks from Gaza, killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, destroyed some 5,000 homes and ruined much of the enclave’s infrastructure, local officials say.

Thirteen Israelis were killed.

“Israeli forces used white phosphorous and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty International’s fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.

Amnesty investigators in the Gaza Strip said they found fragments and components from munitions used by the Israeli army, many made in the United States, in school playgrounds, hospitals and homes.

In addition to artillery and the remains of highly incendiary white phosphorus munitions, Amnesty said it found the remnants of a new type of missile which sprays tiny, sharp-edged metal cubes.

Amnesty said the cubes penetrated thick metal doors and were embedded deep in concrete walls, and were “clearly designed to maximise injury”.

Israel is one of Washington’s closest allies and a major buyer of U.S.-made military equipment.

“To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with U.S. taxpayers’ money,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East director.

"As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights," he said. "The Obama administration should immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Israel." (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Richard Meares) (For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to blogs.reuters.com/axismundi)

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